1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Final Installation of the Last V-berth Cabinet

With the last V-berth cabinet panels veneered and clear coated with ICA base, it’s time to finally install them.

Dry-fitting is done…time to disassemble

Here we go!

First, I marked off where the back of the panels need insulation

Next I wetted out the areas to be insulated with epoxy

After cutting the Buffalo Batt R3 insulation to size, I pressed it in place and left it to cure overnight.

Next day, all of the insulated panels are ready for install

The cabinet front and interior bottom panels are glued and screwed in place

After I installed the fasteners, which are all out of sight when facing the cabinet from the front, I used alcohol on a rag to remove any wood flour-thickened epoxy that squeezed out.

That turned out nicely

Pressing the back panel in place required many sticks

I’m only using epoxy on the back and side panels because I don’t want visible fasteners. The back panel also got insulated, like every other panel that faces the hull envelope.

Next day, out come the sticks!

Next, the cabinet top got glued in place

Then I prepped the porthole area for the next mahogany panel

The contact areas all got wetted out with epoxy

Next I applied wood flour-thickened epoxy as the glue

I use a homebrewed wood flour/fumed silica mix at a 7:3 ratio for panel bonding, and keep adding it to the epoxy until it’s the consistency of creamy peanut butter.

Put the panel in place, and use lots of sticks to keep full contact at the edges

There are stainless screws around the porthole opening that pull it up nice and tight, but the edges need a bit of help in spots to keep the joints good and tight. If you look at the picture above, you’ll see clamps holding sticks, that are pushing other sticks to hold them in place because they’re pushing up against other sticks that are pressing the panel edges into place. It looks goofy as can be, but it works pretty well. What sucks is when I just about get the whole Rube Goldberg contraption done, then I bump one of the mission-critical sticks, which falls out of place and takes out all the rest. Using this stick-clamp method, it’s taken as many as four attempts to finally get it right. Then I back away very, very slowly and head home to let the epoxy cure.

Next day, the sticks come off!


I still can’t believe how tight I got that joint

The last cabinet panels are installed!

It’s a dusty mess inside the V-berth, but it’s nice to have the cabinet panels done. I’ll make moldings later to cover all of the plywood edges. But first, I’ve got some veneer work to do.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Final V-berth Veneers


1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Final Dry-Fitting the Last V-berth Cabinet

I applied mahogany veneers to the last of the V-berth cabinet panels, so the next step was to spray them with ICA base coat clear and finish the dry-fit.

Cutting out the hatch panel from the cabinet interior base

This little MasterMind 800344 3-Inch Circular Plunge Saw is great for cutting cabinet door openings. The kerf is 1/16″, which makes for fairly tight-fitting hatches and doors, and it plunges to cut 3/4″ plywood. The dust collection is the best I’ve ever seen–absolutely no dust gets out. The reason the dust collection is so good is that the blade is almost entirely enclosed. The down-side to that is that you can’t see where you’re cutting. The solution is to make a test plunge part-way into a piece of scrap 1/4″ ply, then use that as a jig to set the track against which you run the saw to make the cut. I also put marks on the saw base to indicate where the kerf begins and ends when you make the plunge. It’s pretty slick.

Cabinet interior panels look good

I really like the look of that rotary cut mahogany plywood.

Rotary cut vs quartersawn mahogany veneer

I had to remove material from the back of the porthole surround panel

The 1/4″ Douglas fir marine plywood that I used for the porthole surround panel is thicker than the 1/4″ cabinet-grade mahogany plywood I used in the V-berth. The Doug fir panel got even thicker when I put the mahogany veneer on, resulting in a pretty big step from one panel to the next. I could use a molding to hide the joint, and I still may. But I wanted to get the two panels at least appearing to be the same height. So I used my Bosch router to remove material from the back of the porthole surround panel where it meets the mahogany backing cleat. That brings the two panels into nearly perfect alignment.

I used a hand plane to finish the beveled edge of the cabinet face panel

Nice and flat bevel from the cleat to the veneer

Once all of the edges were done, I sanded the veneer faces with 240 grit Mirka Abranet sandpaper and sent them to my painter for coating. They came back looking very nice.

Looking good

Cabinet interior panel with hatch panel removed

That hatch panel will give me access to the welded-in thru-hull for the V-berth AC raw water outlet.

Cabinet bottom panel with the hatch panel in place

You can barely tell that there’s a hatch cut in that panel. That’s what I really like about the tiny kerf from the MasterMind plunge saw.

This is fitting together pretty well

Once I’m done dry-fitting and glue all of these panel edges together with epoxy, I can’t be fumbling around putting panels in place, then removing them because I got the order wrong. The porthole surround panel makes a big photographic impression, but from a practical standpoint it’ll be the last panel to go in when I do the final installation.

Yeah, baby!

Cabinet top to porthole surround panel fit is amazingly tight

To be perfectly honest, I have no idea how I got that fit so tight. You couldn’t insert the tiniest edge of a razor blade between those two panels, and that’s just pushed together, with no epoxy gluing the joint yet! I’m completely mystified as to how I did it! I’m not complaining, mind you…but it’s still a mystery.

The top panel to the ‘desk-like structure’ is loosely placed

Not too bad, if I do say so myself!

To preempt a question I’ve gotten several times before, all exposed plywood edges will eventually be covered with solid mahogany moldings of some sort or maybe edge banding. Cabinet top panels will have fiddles, which are moldings that stick up above the surface of the panel to keep things from sliding off in rough seas.

I’ll also say again that, with the last panels dry-fitted and the full impact of the ribbon-striped mahogany in full view, I think it’s too…consistently stripey, if you get my meaning. Especially when compared to the more irregular grain of the rotary cut mahogany I’m using for the rest of the boat (and the interior cabinets in the V-berth). Now, if we were talking about older ribbon-stripe veneers, where the stripes are wider and the logs they were cut from were of greater diameter…those win, hands-down, every time. But, alas, they’re not making mahogany veneer and plywood anymore like what Chris Craft was using back in the day.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Final Installation of the Last V-berth Cabinet

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: More Mahogany Veneers for the V-berth Cabinet

With one V-berth panel veneered, I got busy on the remaining two. The epoxy print-through problem I was worried about that didn’t manifest on the first panel …turns out it’s a real thing.

Interior panels are looking good

It’s time to veneer the face and top cabinet panels.

There’s just enough veneer leftover

I cut it pretty close on the veneer, but fortunately there was enough to do all of the panels. I didn’t want to have to buy another sheet just to do the top.

Brushing on epoxy to wet out the panel

Then brush on some wood four-thickened epoxy

I used wood flour-thickened epoxy on the first panel I veneered because the Douglas fir marine plywood I used there isn’t flat; something had to fill the low spots between the grain. That approach worked pretty good, but the more I think about it I’m not so sure I needed to do the same thing with these okoume panels. They’re nice and flat already. Too late now, I suppose, but lesson learned.

Wetted out and topped with thickened epoxy

Next, I wetted out the veneer and applied it to the panel

Then I clamped it all together

Good squeeze out = good contact

Next day, the clamps come off


Uh oh…epoxy leaked through

That spot isn’t too bad. It’ll sand out…nobody will ever see it once it’s top coated with varnish.


The epoxy not only leaked through here, enough came through to soak into the plywood panel I used as a table top. Fortunately, the fir pulled out of the panel and stuck to the mahogany. That can be sanded off. It would have been unfortunate if the mahogany had pulled off.

Fortunately, a bit of sanding fixed it all up

Lessons learned:

  1. Epoxy makes a good veneer adhesive;
  2. Thickened epoxy is probably unnecessary for flat plywood, like okoume;
  3. Brushing on the epoxy puts too much on the surface; a roller would be better;
  4. Clamping helps ensure 100% contact while the epoxy cures, but it also pushes epoxy through the veneer if too much is applied; and
  5. A non-stick surface for the table would be much better than bare wood…a sheet of shrink wrap plastic might suffice.

That’s it for the veneer work on the V-berth cabinet. Now the panels have to go off to the paint shop and get coated with ICA base coat clear before I install them.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Final Dry-Fitting the Last V-berth Cabinet

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Mahogany Veneers for the V-berth Cabinet

With the last V-berth cabinet panels cut and dry-fitted, the next step was to apply mahogany veneer to the panels. I tried 3M 90 contact cement to bond the veneer panel to the galley-side of the V-berth door opening, but I don’t care for the way it works. So I’m trying epoxy as the veneer adhesive in the V-berth. But I was a bit concerned that the epoxy would wick through the veneer and show up as a stain on the mahogany face, so I did a test run on a piece of veneer scrap. Good news: in the test, the epoxy didn’t print through!

Testing the veneer for bleed-through

It passes the test!

Cutting the veneer to fit

This is my last sheet of veneer and I’ve got several panels to cover, so I cut the piece very close to the actual size. I don’t want to run out of veneer, and I’d prefer not to have to buy another sheet.

Looks good

The panel is wetted out with epoxy, then coated with wood flour-thickened epoxy

I used Douglas fir marine plywood for this panel, which in retrospect may  have been a mistake. Doug fir marine plywood isn’t flat, and there’s no way to make it flat with hand tools. The lighter bands of wood are much softer than the dark bands, so sanding with hand-held tools just makes the height difference worse. I applied a very thin coat of wood flour-thickened epoxy hoping that it will level out the panel and leave the veneer flat.

A thin coating of epoxy wets out the veneer

Pile lots of flat, heavy stuff on top to press the veneer to the panel

I really need a big, flat table to do this work right. Over at Weaver Boatworks, they have a table with a 1″ thick aluminum plate top and a vacuum bag system that they use for veneer work. I have to make due with what I’ve got.

Next day, the epoxy is cured

The excess veneer is trimmed off

Not bad!

The Douglas fir printed through!!!

Dang it! There’s this one spot where the Doug fir grain didn’t get filled with thickened epoxy. I didn’t even see it until I lightly sanded the mahogany and the low spot became visible. Fortunately, it’ll vanish with a little hand sanding. Lesson learned: don’t use Doug fir plywood for panels that will be veneered.


Comparison of rotary cut and quartersawn mahogany

I really like the original mahogany Chris Craft used, but the more I’m around it in the V-berth the less fond I am of the modern ribbon-stripe with the V shape where the separate veneer edges come together. I think I prefer the rotary cut panel on the left. That panel goes inside the last V-berth cabinet. Since it’s inside a cabinet, I finished it with a few brushed coats of Minwax polyurethane. It looks great! The irregularity of the grain appeals to me more than the stripes. Good thing the rest of the boat will be done in the rotary cut plywood from the stack in the salon!

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: More Mahogany Veneers for the V-berth Cabinet

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Back to the V-berth Cabinet

Now that the galley-side of the V-berth door opening is topped with mahogany veneer, I got back to work on the last cabinet in the V-berth.

When last we saw this cabinet…it was topless!

There are times when I need a bigger framing square

And there are times when I wish my Makita was a plunge saw

I’m getting pretty good at pivoting the saw squarely down onto the track, which has the same effect as a plunge saw. But a real plunge saw would be best for these kinds of cuts. Unfortunately, they don’t offer the plunge saw with an 8-1/4″ blade, and as a weekend warrior I can’t justify buying another saw.

The rough-cut cabinet top

Next, I dry fitted the mahogany cleats

I level the boat every few months, so the floors are level…same as in a house. So I can use levels when doing the cabinetry, which is something you can’t normally do on a floating boat.

Just about ready

I notched out the back edge to clear the aluminum frame

Not too shabby

Plywood scrap makes a good rabbet gauge

To cut the rabbets for the cabinet top-to-face panel joint, I run my Bosch router along the track for my EZ-One track saw table. To get a tight-fitting rabbet, the height and depth of the cuts needs to be identical on both panels, so I use marks on my handy-dandy plywood scrap to align the panel to the track on both ends, then make the cut.

Just about perfect

By the way, these mahogany cleats are the ones I made from the original toe rails on the boat. You can see what they looked like when we started this project in my introductory article, The Refit Begins. Every time I see that article, I ask myself what the hell was I thinking?!?!


Mini-plunge saw cuts the cabinet opening

Better still!

Leveling the cabinet interior panel


Mark off the panel position and remove it

Dry fit more cleats, test fit the panel, then glue and screw the cleats in place

Gluing and screwing the cleats on the face panel

Once the cabinet is completely built, I’ll disassemble it and apply mahogany veneers to the exterior faces. The order in which each panel goes back together has to be just right and the fit has to be very good (or better) so the veneered panels come together properly on final assembly. For example, I’d prefer to install the back panel of this cabinet after the top is on, but it won’t fit through the cabinet opening, so it has to be installed before the cabinet top goes on. The order for final assembly will be the face panel, the interior lower panel, the back panel, the top, followed by a filler panel up against the bulkhead. Easy-peasy.

It all needs to slide together and fit perfectly…

kinda like that

Same on the forward edge

Nice fit!

With the cabinet panels all cut and fitting nicely, next I’ll disassemble the cabinet and try out my theory for using epoxy for veneer work. It worked great when I applied 1/4″ ribbon-stripe mahogany plywood to the forward V-berth bulkhead. But veneer is a lot thinner than plywood panels, and epoxy has a tendency of soaking in. I don’t want it to bleed through the backing and stain the wood on the face.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Mahogany Veneers for the V-berth Cabinet

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Fitting a Veneer Panel For the Galley Bulkhead

The missus came out to help on the project. I armed her with a pile of sticks and a glue gun coming up to temp while I started pulling sheets of 1/8″ mahogany plywood out of the stack. Then we got busy finishing up the big panel work that has to happen before I can wrap up the V-berth cabinetry.

That’s a very complex shape

The missus makes a mean stick pattern

Mark off the pattern on the plywood

That’s a very spindly piece of plywood

Pretty good fit, but it needs some trimming

Since the glue gun was hot, we made the V-berth panel pattern, too

There’s a lot of epoxy, fiberglass, and fairing compound residue stuck to the wall here from when we did the V-berth head. That will all have to be sanded off before we’ll get a good panel fit.

Transferring the pattern to the V-berth panel

Not too shabby

Taped off and ready to apply contact cement

I’ve been thinking about using epoxy for the veneer work since it worked so well on the V-berth forward bulkhead panel. But I wanted to give it a go with 3M 90 High strength contact cement, since I’d been seeing in many places that contact cement is preferred for veneer work.

New mahogany veneer is bonded in place

It took 3/4 of one can of contact cement for this one panel, and I don’t like the bond very much at all. Price-wise, the contact cement is much, much more expensive than an equivalent amount of epoxy. Bond-wise, I don’t like that there’s a bit of ‘give’ in the joint. While the panel seems to be firmly stuck in place, when I squeeze the bulkhead and mahogany panel, I can see that the bond zone compresses just a bit, even after letting it cure overnight.

I have another Chris Craft, a 1968 42′ Commander, and the feux-teak paneling on that boat has more than a few spots where the contact cement let loose over time. That, plus the way even 3M’s best are behaving on this one panel has me leaning toward not using it anymore.

Bosch router helps clean up the cabinet opening

Looks good!

After cleaning up the corners of the cabinet opening, that was a wrap.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Back to the V-berth Cabinet

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Wrapping Up the Galley Bulkhead

With the inside of the galley storage cabinet done, next I finished up the galley bulkhead that also acts as the cabinet face.

Need to trim the bottom and cut the cabinet opening

This cut squares up the door opening

The panel’s square…the boat is curved

I’ll remove the mahogany cleat behind this panel and mount the sliding door hardware directly to the aluminum bow deck framing above it.

Looks good!

All contact surfaces got wetted out with epoxy

Then I topped it with epoxy thickened with wood flour and cabosil

When I added the panel to the bulkhead to the left of the V-berth door opening to fix yet another screw-up by “Mr. Good But Slow,” I cut a slot up the sides and on the top so I could use mahogany splines to strengthen the joints. I cut a slot in the cabinet face panel to match the one at the top of the bulkhead panel. After sliding the panel in place, I tapped in the spline then screwed the panel in place.

I also put a patch in where “Mr. Good But Slow” had cut an unnecessary hole for some reason

The galley bulkhead is finally done!

Next I need to make a pattern and cut the veneer panel that will face the bulkhead on the galley side, then I’ll finish things up on the V-berth side.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Fitting a Veneer Panel For the Galley Bulkhead